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Volkswagen Arteon — long-term review
The Golf is the universal answer to about 90 per cent of all motoring questions, yet as a brand Volkswagen wilfully fails to get the blood pumping. (Unless you are an American corporate lawyer, but we’ll leave the ongoing rumble of Dieselgate to one side for now.) The Arteon is the result of VW’s Grail-like quest for soul. We know that the sum of its parts is pretty damn good – it’s a Volkswagen – but can the Arteon be greater than that? A perfect candidate for the TG Garage treatment, then.
Let’s start with its design. VW is so keen to distance it from the Passat CC – a car I always thought really well proportioned – that it gets a new name. But it is the CC’s new identity that underlines fresh flagship aspirations. The Arteon has VW’s new face, a look that stops short of Lexus’s wildly overcooked ‘spindle grille’ but still manages to dodge tedious pedestrian-protection-dictated homogeneity. I reckon they’ve landed on something truly distinctive. The bonnet is a big clamshell number, and the wheelarches take a satisfying bite out of it. There’s a rising swage line, a nicely abbreviated fastback, and if the Arteon concludes less imaginatively than it begins, overall it’s a very solid job.
Happily, we got to spec the car, and although we don’t always end up ticking every box, allowed ourselves to be nudged in the direction of the range-topping 2.0-litre BiTDI 4Motion, in R-Line trim. Turmeric Yellow is the colour Volkswagen’s designers favour, and it’s also the least conservative. So we went for black (better for resale, unsurprisingly). I wish we’d been braver: at least we’d have avoided what one wag described, rather unkindly, as the Uber Premium look. The 19in Montevideo alloys are standard, as are the Nappa Art nouveau leather seats, with ‘carbon optic’ side bolsters. The Dynaudio ‘Confidence’ soundpack is a £1,010 option.
It’s a big car (4.8m long), with a huge rear compartment uncompromised by the sloping roofline (no doubt with an eye on the Chinese market, where rear space denotes premium). This undermines its enthusiasm for what old people used to call ‘press-on’ driving, but it has no end of grip. Great economy, too: the computer regularly shows 50mpg-plus despite its weight. Diesel, y’see.